Are a growing number of your workers punching in from home? You are not alone. Colorado has the nation’s largest percentage of work-from-home employees, with 6.9 percent of the state’s workforce telecommuting. That’s more than double the national average of 2.6 percent.
Advances in technology and employers’ desire to save money have sparked this trend. The benefits of working from home include lower absentee rates, decreased carbon footprint and fewer accidents during daily commutes as well as increased job satisfaction. Employers spend less on real estate and gain more productive employees.
But telecommuting is not without hazards. Lacking oversight, people who work from home still can get hurt on the job. Instituting telecommuting guidelines helps employees stay as safe at home as they would be in the office. Start with these suggestions:
- Put work-from-home agreements in writing: Make sure both parties understand expectations and what safety standards to follow.
- Institute workplace hazard assessments: Telecommuters should conduct a biannual hazard assessment based on a standardized checklist.
- Keep a portable fire extinguisher handy: Most homes store extinguishers in the kitchen, if they have them at all. Have workers place one at their workstation in case of emergency.
- Provide an adjustable task chair and workstation as well as ergonomics training: While telecommuters may prefer to relax on the couch with their laptop, working this way long- term can lead to back and neck issues as well as shoulder, wrist, and hand problems. Provide highly adjustable task chairs, quality keyboard and mouse options, and adjustable-height monitors for laptop users. Have employees perform an ergonomic self-assessment of their workstation using Pinnacol’s online office ergonomics training video, or provide them with proper workstation setup and layout resources.
- Move computers away from heat sources: Overheated computers can malfunction, lose data and, in a worst case, start a fire. Require use of surge protectors, too, just as you do in the office.
- Clear floors of hazards: With no supervisor to regulate them, work stations may become messy. A worker may sustain an injury tripping over a computer cord or even Legos their child left out while playing nearby. Advise telecommuters to clean up daily just as they would at the office.
- Avoid eye strain: Working on a computer located near a large window or reading paper documents in a dark basement can cause eye strain. Review Pinnacol’s Office Ergonomics Workstation Tips for guidelines on proper workstation setup, layout, and lighting. A desktop task lamp may be necessary to provide sufficient light for workers reading a lot of paper documents.
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